South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia this week approved a total ban on the use of so-called bump stock or bump fire stock devices, which can be fitted over a gun’s stock and grip to enable semi-automatic rifles to fire in a manner similar to fully automatic rifles.
Citing the recent deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, Columbia City Council approved the new measures on Tuesday evening. Use of bump fire stocks or a similar “trigger crank”, which can also be used to increase a rifle’s rate of fire, is now a misdemeanor under municipal law within the state capital.
The remainder of the state of South Carolina does not as yet regulate bump stock devices, but there are currently statewide bans in California and Massachusetts. In Columbia under the new rules, a citizen can legally own a bump stock on the condition that is not connected to a gun and stored in a separate container.
Proponents of the final ordinance managed to argue that the new Columbia policy is in line with a statewide law in South Carolina, which prevents local governments from regulating guns or their parts. They claim that bump fire stocks and trigger cranks do not fall under the definition of a gun or a component of a gun, because the weapon can still fire even when the bump fire stock device is not attached.
Stephen Benjamin, the current mayor of the city with 134,000 inhabitants, says he believes Columbia is the first American city to ban the use of bump fire stocks and trigger cranks. “I believe in responsible gun ownership, and I believe in common sense,” he declared in a statement on Tuesday night, “That’s why we’ve decided to do what our federal and statement governments are either unable or unwilling to do.”
Those in favor of the bill repeatedly alluded to the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, in which 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada opened fire upon a crowd of 22,000 from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Paddock fired more than 1,100 rounds from his hotel suite at concertgoers attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival and then allegedly shot himself in the head before police arrived. His motive for the massacre has yet to be revealed.
The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and reignited a national debate on gun control. Paddock is said to have used bump fire stocks to increase the rate of fire for the assault rifles he used. The new Columbia ordinance references the massacre in Nevada with the statement: “The carnage in Las Vegas was accomplished due to the rapid fire capabilities of a ‘bump stock’ attached to the shooter’s firearms.”
Officials from the National League of Cities are unaware of any other U.S. cities that have banned bump stocks, as most are prohibited from passing ordinances that reach beyond state law. In 2010, the Supreme Court of South Carolina nullified a Myrtle Beach ordinance forcing all motorcyclists to wear helmets, stating that the city could not implement such a requirement in the absence of a state law.
Tucker is a foreign correspondent and media analyst for Not Liberal.